Thursday, July 17, 2008

Interactive Ubiquitous Maps? Not yet.. Charlotte recently spent 3.8 million dollars on STATIC city maps!

Not too long ago, I took this picture of an information and map display in uptown Charlotte, N.C., my home town. This sign is located near the basketball arena, near one of the new light rail stations.

As I approached the display, I was hoping that it was a digitally supported interactive map, since it was so shiny and new. I was disappointed to see that it was static. The display contained information appropriate to the setting, but wasn't nearly what I had expected.

I later learned that the cost of this project was 3.8 million dollars, mostly in the form of a grant from the federal government. Perhaps some of this money could have been spent on a system of interactive wayfinding displays, with multi-touch capabilities. In my dreams....

Designing and implementing this sort of system is complex, but in my opinion, important. If you are interested in this topic, take the time to read
The invisible city: Design in the age of intelligent maps. The article, posted in the Think Tank section of the Adobe Design Center website, provides an in-depth exploration of the issues related to ubiquitous, interactive, information-rich maps. The authors, Kazys Varnelis and Leah Meisterline, are from from Netlab, the network architecture lab at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture.

I guess I should be happy that the folks at the Charlotte City Hall understand the need for wayfinding solutions:

From the 7/3/08 Charlotte Observer:

"The pedestrian signs are part of a larger program to increase signage throughout the center city. The bigger chunk of the project is aimed at signs directing motorists to destinations as well as parking. Those signs are projected to go up in 2009 and 2010. Total cost for all: $3.8 million, much of which is paid through a federal grant. The city's portion is $780,000. .... "We wanted to make sure we could direct pedestrians getting off light rail," said Kimbler, the city's project manager for the wayfinding program... The first signs went up on streets, such as College, adjacent to the Lynx Blue line. A second set of signs was placed to direct people to uptown destinations, such as museums, libraries, The Square and the Charlotte Convention Center. Now 51 signs are up." -Amy Baldwin, Charlotte Observer Link

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